Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

The website of The New York Times was offline for about two hours on Wednesday in what company officials say was a failure during regular maintenance of, and not the result of a cyberattack.

“The outage occurred within seconds of a scheduled maintenance update being pushed out and we believe that was the cause,” said Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The New York Times Co.

The site went down about 11:10 a.m., and sporadically returned around 1:15 p.m., with new articles being published again by about 3 p.m. The failure took place during the peak hours for traffic to the site, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Murphy said, adding that the site had more than 7.1 million visits on Monday.

In January, The Times reported that Chinese hackers had repeatedly attacked and had obtained passwords for some reporters and other employees before being repelled by computer experts working for the company. Murphy said that based on what experts examining the failure had seen there was “no reason to believe this was the result of a cyberattack.”

It was a consequential day for international news, with reports that the Egyptian military had fired on protesters supporting the ousted president, Mohammed Morsi, leaving scores of people dead. The Times used Facebook Notes to publish a handful of articles, including two concerning the violent crackdown in Egypt.

With a let’s-put-out-a-newspaper attitude — for example, the Opinion section of the Times posted to Twitter: “Readers, don’t fret. If remains down, we are ready to tweet op-eds and editorials in 140-character increments” — the failure was reminiscent of power blackout. As it happens, Wednesday was the 10th anniversary of the East Coast blackout.

Others were there to fill the void — with some promoting their podcasts or articles. Coincidentally, Dow Jones sent a message via Twitter about its newspaper The Wall Street Journal: “Bonus lunchtime reading: is free to everyone for the next 2 hours.” The company said the offer was for its breaking-news coverage of Egypt, a practice it has done in the past.

For readers, the single biggest opportunity seemed to be the reaction on Twitter. Ezra Klein of The Washington Post posted: “What, you thought Jeff Bezos was going to buy the Post and play defense?”